It’s official: the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic saw the richest people in the UK increase their wealth to over half a trillion pounds. 2020 saw more people become billionaires than ever before. That’s the verdict of the latest “Rich List”. But of course, for the rest of us, life wasn’t that fruitful.
The Rich List just gets richer
As PA reported, the Sunday Times Rich List showed that there are now a record 171 billionaires in the UK. Ukrainian-born Leonard Blavatnik tops the pile as the richest person in the country. He’s an oil and media investor. Blavatnik saw his fortune surge by £7.2bn to around £23bn during the year of the pandemic. His business interests include Warner Music, which he sold a £1.37bn stake in when it listed in the US last year.
But as the Sunday Times tweeted, it was a record year for its Rich List:
— The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) May 21, 2021
PA reported that the number of UK billionaires jumped by 24%. Their wealth rose by 21.7% over the year, going up by £106.5bn to £597.2bn. How odd, when compared to the wealth of the UK as a whole:
Last year UK GDP contracted by 9.9%. The largest annual fall on record. The collective wealth of UK based billionaires, meanwhile, grew by 21.7%.
— Tom Mills (@ta_mills) May 21, 2021
So, these are the 10 ‘fattest cats’ in the UK according to the Rich List:
- Leonard Blavatnik – £23bn.
- David and Simon Reuben – £21.46bn.
- Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family – £17bn.
- James Dyson and family – £16.3bn.
- Lakshmi Mittal and family – £14.68bn.
- Alisher Usmanov – £13.4bn.
- Kirsten and Jorn Rausing – £13bn.
- Roman Abramovich – £12.1bn.
- Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho – £12.01bn.
- Guy, George, Alannah and Galen Weston and family – £11bn.
But even the Sunday Times had to admit that this sharp increase in the wealthiest people’s wealth was obscene. PA reported that compiler of the Rich List Robert Watts said:
The global pandemic created lucrative opportunities for many online retailers, social networking apps and computer games tycoons.
The fact many of the super-rich grew so much wealthier at a time when thousands of us have buried loved ones and millions of us worried for our livelihoods makes this a very unsettling boom.
A nightmare for the rest of us
Meanwhile, for the rest of us, the pandemic has been nothing short of a nightmare.
It’s been marked by an increase in precariousness, poverty, and destitution for many people in the UK. As The Canary has documented, this is the reality if you didn’t make the Rich List:
- The number of households living in destitution doubled in 2020.
- Four in ten people who needed financial support to self-isolate couldn’t get it.
- Chaos with Universal Credit included researchers slamming the contentious £20 uplift as “inadequate”.
- Half a million people entitled to Universal Credit didn’t claim it due to the complexity of the system, for fear of looking like ‘scroungers’, and other reasons.
- Unicef fed hungry children in the UK for the first time in its history.
- The Trussell Trust saw food parcels it gave to children increase in number by 107% in 2020.
- The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) said that it saw an 88% increase in overall use between February and October 2020.
- The Trussell Trust said it saw a 47% increase in “need” between 1 April and 30 September 2020. It gave out 1.2m food parcels.
- By November 2020, almost 700,000 more people were in poverty than before the pandemic. This included 120,000 more children.
As one Twitter user summed up:
This is not something we should should be proud of. To host a billionaire in 2021 means that you have 10,000’s people in the same country living in absolute poverty.
Billionaires are a human parasite. https://t.co/bIX0ViC22O
— The Bear (@bear_roar) May 21, 2021
How’s that “levelling up” going now, Boris Johnson? Because the only levelling up so far has been for the Rich List billionaires.
Featured image and additional reporting via PA
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